Never Grow Weary!
A sermon based on Isaiah 40:27-31
Sunday, September 8, 2013 – ELHS Dedication
I still think it's pretty awesome... when I look out the window of my office and see an eagle land in my yard with its huge wing span! Or when I'm out on the river, and I may not be catching fish, but I watch an eagle swoop down from a tree and pull out a salmon showing me up with ease. Or when I'm just driving down the road and an eagle swoops over my van right in front of the windshield. They're so big, so powerful, so awesome! I hope I never get tired of seeing the eagles. I hope I never grow weary of their majesty.
But sadly, for some Alaskans the eagles are about as exciting as the seagulls. "They're just big scavengers," one person told me. "If you really want to see eagles, go to the dump. They always hang around there looking for scraps." "You know what eagles eat most, don't you?" another asked me in a spontaneous game of trivia. "Roadkill." Familiarity makes the most majestic things seem common, even boring.
Now, if you want to grow weary, become complacent, and get used to the majestic eagle, that's fine. You're loss. But far more shameful is when God's people—when I—am no longer awed by God's majestic grace. How sad when the majesty of God's love becomes commonplace, even boring to us.
But this afternoon, the Lord renews our strength. He forgives our sin. And by his powerful Word he renews our awe at his majestic grace so we marvel at it again and don't grow weary. See God's majestic grace pictured for us in Isaiah 40, including those familiar verses of soaring on wings like eagles, but backing up to verse 27 to get the context. Isaiah 40:27-31…
27 Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, "My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God"? 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
I. Never Weary of God's Grace
- Weary of Our Problems
Evergreen Lutheran is just about as old as I am. I was born in August of '78 and ELHS opened her doors in September of that same year. That means that Evergreen's been circling Puget Sound, soaring around looking for a permanent place to land for thirty-five years! From Du Pont to Des Moines from Gig Harbor to Tacoma we've been searching. And that's a long time to fly. Our wings can get tired! How easy it's been to grow weary and think we'd never land.
And Evergreen has had her fair share of other struggles too. Financial challenges may seem to be always looming on the horizon, already having forced budget cuts and downsizing. And it may be easy to grow weary of the struggle. Problems with the staff, problems with the students, problems with the congregations who are supposed to support "our" school, can all lead us to grow weary of the struggle.
And in addition to the challenges and struggles at Evergreen, we have our own personal challenges and struggles too. I'd give more to Evergreen—I'd give more to God—if I had more to give. But my finances aren't exactly like Donald Trump's! My debt seems to be catching up to Evergreen's! I'd serve more if I were in better health, but I'm too worn out all of the time. My health is slipping. I'd help out more if I didn't have so many problems of my own. Let me get my own house in order first and deal with my own kids and my spouse. Then I'll help others.
And then, on top of the real problems, we add worry, and borrow problems from the future. We're worried about our grades, about our kids, about our finances, about our job, about our health, about our retirement. And we pack more onto our backs that we're trying to carry.
It's a heavy load we carry. It's hard to fly when we're that weighed down, isn't it? How easy it can be to grow weary. How easy it can be to start to wonder, "Where is God in all of this? Doesn't he care? Doesn't he see what's going on? Then why doesn't he do something to lift some of these burdens?"
- Weary of God's Grace
Ah, but isn't our weariness really just a symptom of the bigger problem. Doesn't our weariness with the challenges we face, really come because we've grown weary of hearing about God's grace? That that his majestic love has becoming boring?
Bill began to blush when he went to pay at the end of his meal. He just realized he'd forgotten his wallet at home. But relief washed over him when he saw his old friend, Tom, walk in. "Tom! How've you been, buddy? It's been way too long! Hey listen, pal, I'm really embarrassed to ask you this, but… well… do you think you could spot me $20. I accidentally left my wallet at home and need to pay for my meal. I'll take you out for lunch next week to pay you back and we can catch up."
But to Bill's surprise, Tom cried out, "You've got to be kidding me, you freeloader! No way you're getting me to buy your meal! Get a job, you bum!"
Bill was confused. Didn't Tom recognize him? "Tom, it's me, Bill. Remember, the guy who let you stay in his house for 6 months, rent-free when you were down on your luck? Remember me, Tom, the guy who gave you that interest-free loan when you were just getting started in your business? Remember me, Tom, the guy who pulled you out of the lake when you fell in and were drowning because you couldn't swim? The guy who took you to County Medical and paid for all your bills afterwards? Tom, don't you remember me?"
Tom thought for bit and replied, "Sure, I remember you, Bill. But what have you done for me lately?!"
Isn't that what we sound like to God when we grow weary of his grace and whine and complain against him? "Sure, you've paid for my sin. Sure, you've rescued me from Satan's grip. Sure, you've saved me from hell. But what about my health? What about my finances? What about my kids? What about my spouse? Sure, I remember you, God. But what have you done for me lately?!"
27 Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, "My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God"? 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
Who are you to imagine that you can understand how God is working through the struggles and the challenges you face? Who are you to think you could even begin to understand the everlasting God? Who are you to question him? Who are you to whine and complain to him?
But we do. We ignore God's Word that calls us to "endure hardship… like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 2:3) And we whine when things don't go our way. And we add to all of our other problems the greatest problem of sin—of rebellion against "the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth." And that's a burden that's too heavy for us. We can't soar to heaven. We can't even get off the ground. Like an eagle in captivity, we're caged by our sin, chained to death, and by nature doomed to an eternal, inescapable captivity in hell.
- Lifted Up by Grace
And yet, in spite of how we grow weary of waiting for God to deliver things he's never promised, in spite of our rebellious whining and complaining against him, in spite of how often we grow weary of Gods' grace… he never wearies of us.
In fact, he loves us so much, that he soared down to us, not just from the sky, but condescending to come down to us from heaven. He came down to rescue us. He lived a sinless life in our place, never growing weary of doing good, but constantly remained perfect in everything he thought or said or did, never complaining to God even though he was treated unfairly. And he took that that burden of sin that is far too heavy for us to lift and took on himself—every whiny moment, every complaint, every time we've grown weary. And he paid the penalty that our sins earned. Now we are forgiven. The burden of guilt is lifted. He shattered the shackles of sin, destroyed the cage that kept us. He set us captives free and now we're free to soar!
Now that may seem like an old message. "I've heard it before! I hear it every Sunday and every time I open the Book." But may we never grow weary of hearing it! May you be filled with fresh excitement each Sunday that you hear those words of absolution, "Your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!" May your heart be full of joy every time you receive Jesus' body and blood to eat and drink, given for you, poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins! May you rejoice again every time you hear that old message in a sermon, a devotion, a chapel message, as if hearing it again for the very first time: "You are forgiven! You are at peace with God!" And never grow weary of God's grace!
It is incredibly exciting that Evergreen has a new home in a new a building with new opportunities to grow, spiritually and if God wills it, numerically. But far more exciting than the building, the property, or the potential, is the message that will be shared here every day! May you never grow weary of hearing it in your chapel services, daily devotions, and your religion classes! May you never grow weary of teaching it and all the subjects in view of God's grace!
And renewed by God's grace, never growing weary or tired of hearing that Gospel message, God will strengthen you by it to keep serving him in thankful joy without growing weary…
II. Never Too Weary to Soar
My son said, "Dad, look! He's turning around! And coming right for us! ...Wait. Never mind. He's going away again. ...Wait! Here he comes again! ... Never mind. There he goes." Of course, unlike my son, you know what the Eagle was doing. It was circling. You see, eagles are big birds.
When that huge eagle landed in my front yard, just feet away from my office window, I was awed by its magnificent size. It was about three feet tall. And with a wingspan of seven to eight feet, I'm sure it was a heavy bird. In fact, bald eagles, weighing in at eight to fourteen pounds are too heavy to flap their wings all day to fly. It would take too much energy to lift a bird that big. They would have to consume way too many calories to survive.
So they fly differently than other birds. They have patience. They sit and wait. They wait for a thermal wind—where the sun warms the air quicker over land than over water, creating a breeze with lift. And flapping their wings just enough to get off the ground, they let that thermal wind pick them up. And spiraling around in the sky over that thermal they let the rising warm air do all the work, lifting them higher and higher—up to three miles high!—until they're high enough to just soar to their destination. Very literally, they let the sun lift them up.
What a fitting picture for us—the Evergreen Eagles! On our own, we cannot lift ourselves from this earth to heaven. On our own, we can't find the strength to face the challenges of each day. We can't find the answers to our problems. We don't have the solutions. And when we start to get too full of ourselves and think that it is up to us, well that's when we typically crash to the ground. And even if we can flap around for a while, we can't sustain the energy and excitement that we need to deal with our problems. We can't sustain the energy and excitement that we need to carry out the important work entrusted to us. If it were up to us, we eventually grow weary and burn out.
But it's not up to us. We have patience. And the Son lifts us up. Jesus lifts us up!
29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
You know the promises he's given: "God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'" (Hebrews 13:5-6) "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20) "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10) "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me." (Psalm 50:15) And I'm sure you can think of dozens of others.
Rely on those promises. Cling to those promises. Let them lift you up and sustain you when grow weary. Let them give you strength and increase your power when you're weak. And as you put your hope in the Lord your strength will be renewed.
So when the bills are piling up and you're weary of the struggle, don't rely on your strength and grow weary! But let the Son lift you up and soar on wings like eagles trusting his promise to provide for what you need to find contentment.
When the homework's weighing you down and you feel like taking a short cut, don't rely on your strength and grow weary! But let the Son lift you up and soar on wings like eagles, remembering Christ's sacrifice for you to serve him faithfully.
When your relationships are strained and you feel like quitting, don't rely on your strength and grow weary! But let the Son lift you up and soar on wings like eagles, remembering God's selfless love for you to selflessly serve others in thanks.
When your health is slipping and you feel like it's time to stop serving, don't rely on your strength and grow weary! But let the Son lift you up and soar on wings like eagles, remembering God's grace to finish the race well.
So here we are. We've finally landed. Our soaring and searching for a place to call home is finally over. And what a majestic place God has given us to land! But let's not just be content to just land. Let's use this place as a launching pad—where where our kids can be strengthened in God's Word for the flights that God has in store for them. Let's launch from this place to proclaim God's majestic grace to our new neighbors. Let's use this place to encourage one another and then fly from here to glorify God in our homes, in our jobs, in our lives. Let's soar, warmed by the Son, strengthened by the Spirit, uplifted by our Almighty God. Let's soar like eagles, until God's flight plan for us is complete and he guides us to safe landing in a place far more beautiful than 7306 Waller Road. By his grace we will land in a heavenly campus, and take up eternal rest for our wings and for our souls at Jesus' side in glory! To him be all thanks and praise! Amen!